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Helping Your Aging Parents Quit Smoking

Did you know that today, the third Thursday of November, is the Great American Smokeout? Each year, smokers are encouraged to use this date to make a plan for quitting or to quit smoking on that day. Smoking can be especially dangerous for older adults. According to the American Lung Association, older smokers are “significantly less likely than younger smokers to believe that smoking harms their health.” About 8% of those 65 or older are smokers.

Even if it’s just for one day, quitting smoking has many health benefits. In one day, your blood circulation increases and your risk of having a heart attack decreases. In nine months, your lungs become cleaner and function better and your shortness of breath decreases. Long-term, your risk of heart disease, lung cancer, stroke and other serious health conditions decreases.

Many older adults aren’t interested in quitting smoking because they think there is no benefit to them in their advanced age. But, regardless of age, quitting smoking can add years to your life and improve your health and quality of life. Among smokers who quit at age 65, men have been shown to gain 1.4 to 2 years of life and women gain 2.7 to 3.4 years.

Take advantage of today’s Great American Smokeout—help your loved one to make a plan to quit smoking for good. How can you help them quit smoking? Here are some helpful strategies to get you started:

  • On the day you decide to quit, throw away all of aging parent’s cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters and matches. Getting rid of the cigarettes and all of the things they need to smoke will make it a little harder to go back to their old ways.
  • Make sure they have someone to hold them accountable. That could be an old friend, a family member or even a caregiver. It helps if this person was previously a smoker as well—it will help them to relate to their struggles.
  • Help them to find new ways to manage their stress. Many smokers claim that smoking helps to calm their nerves. If your loved one feels that smoking helps them to relax, figure out new ways to get them to calm down.
  • Create a reward system. It may seem childish, but rewards can help your family member to stay motivated and to continue to work towards their goal. Make the rewards good—things they will look forward to like CDs, DVDs or books and bigger things for longer periods of time without a cigarette like dinner at a fancy restaurant, concert tickets or trips.
  • Figure out how to keep them distracted from cigarette cravings. There are many ways to create distractions, but it is important that you find a method that works for your loved one. This could include exercising, talking to friends or family on the phone, chewing gum, taking a hot bath or shower, drinking water or snacking on healthy treats.

Smoking is a tough habit to break. With positive encouragement and a well thought-out plan, you can help your aging family member begin the journey to becoming free from cigarette cravings. What are some tips you have for others that are trying to quit smoking?

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